Monday, July 15, 2013
Review Policy Amendment, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Indie Book
But I never had a cushy publishing job. And things change. My grandfather owned a newspaper, my father worked for a corporate newspaper; I run a free blog. Things change.
But change is so often a good thing. In college, a friend of mine had to declare bankruptcy when his printed literary magazine in which he interviewed writers and reviewed books went under. At his height, he had a respectable subscription of just over 500 readers. As of this post, I average 60 times that number of readers every month (and growing), and this blog costs me a little less than $100 a year to run. And only that much because I lack the gumption to ask some writers to give me free books to review. I already had a copy of Watership Down, so Richard Adams got a pass:)
I love literary agents and editors. Esteemed Reader, you know I do. I never would've got the readership I was just bragging about without them. But my loyalty is not, nor has it ever been, to the traditional publishing model. I care about good stories well told. Any way a talented writer can get to me and capture my imagination, short of coming to my house and shouting her story while I'm trying to sleep, is okay with me--having to specify this is a natural outgrowth of being friends with authors like Mike Mullin:)
That being said, my review policy is out of date and needs to be amended. Since the start of this blog, I've been refusing indie authors. My view of the self-published author has been one of disdain. I understand a writer wanting to get their story out by any means necessary, but so frequently the result is a published book not yet ready to be published. I've resented indie authors because why should it be so easy for them when it's so hard for the rest of us slugging away at the traditional model?
It used to be if a book was published by a major publisher, a reader could at least expect a certain standard of quality. For whatever reason or reasons, that's been slipping. You know I only comment on the positive aspects of the books I review here, but that doesn't mean I don't catch all the atrocious mistakes and errors. I've been telling my critique group for a while we have to be more vigilant in editing our work because we can't trust publishing houses to catch our mistakes.
Too many writers have I seen recently thrust up on stage without their publisher first noticing their fly was down. Too many traditionally published books have I read with awful passages I wouldn't let my worst enemy publish without at least a word of caution.
I read Open Minds by my old friend Susan Kaye Quinn and I'm ravenously devouring the collected works of Hugh Howey. I've started reading an indie author every other book and what I'm finding is a lot of garbage, but in-between the hay, there's the occasional needle. I've now read indie books so good I tell friends about them, and why shouldn't I tell you about them, Esteemed Reader?
Like Scrooge the morning after, I've discovered the true meaning of Christmas. What I love is great books. I don't care who publishes them. So, knowing the onslaught of emails about to bury my inbox before I finish this sentence, I, Robert Kent, Middle Grade Ninja, being of (mostly) sound mind, hereby lift my unreasonable ban of indie authors.
I want indie publishing to flourish. How could I not? Is this a traditional print literary magazine you're reading? I've been "indie publishing" this blog for years. No one asked me to do it, no one gave me permission. I just did it. How could I think less of any fellow writer for doing the same?
However, I AM NOT GOING TO REVIEW SLUSH.
The other reason I've summarily turned down indie writers for years is so I don't have to say "no" to individuals. That ends now. If you're an indie writer and you submit a book to me, know that I'm going to hold you to a higher level of accountability because you don't have anyone to blame for your book's lack of quality but yourself. If I don't think your book is ready for mainstream consumption, I'm not recommending it.
I'm no gatekeeper. But anytime I review a book here, I'm spending time away from my family, my writing, and other books. I'll keep an open mind and check out free samples, but if I don't want to read your book or I don't think Esteemed Reader will like it, I'm not going to feature it. Nothing personal. It's just like, you know, my opinion, man. Don't worry about it, indie author. Go find another blogger or write a better book, or better yet, do both.
If I were traditionally publishing these reviews, I'm sure someone would be in a position to tell me what books to read. Of course, I might also be getting paid:) But there's no money, and it's just you and me, Esteemed Reader. So let's try something new. It might be fun.
If you want me to consider your self-published book, here are the ground rules going forward:
1. Your book must be professionally presented. If I can't stomach the thought of your book's hideous cover marring the front page of my precious blog, it's not going to. If you haven't bothered to format your book in an orderly fashion, that doesn't give me much hope for your writing. If you don't take your book seriously, I'm not going to either.
2. Your book must be middle grade or young adult. I would think calling this blog MIDDLE GRADE Ninja would make this clear, but judging by the emails I get, not everyone's picking up what I'm laying down.
3. The Ninja reads free. You may be the next Richard Adams, but that remains to be seen. If you want me to consider your book, you have to give me a free Kindle copy. It's a marketing cost, dude.
4. No means no. If I say I'm not interested, leave it at that. Don't make me be the bad guy. I don't have to critique your work--you should've had that done before you published. And I don't have to explain myself. The reason I decide not to review your book may be because a butterfly flapped its wings in Central Park. Don't send me hate mail. Move on. If you're a real writer, you should be used to rejection.
That's all the rules I can think of for now. We'll see how this goes, then maybe I'll add some more.